Published on: 12-03-2015

Apps vs. responsive browser magazines

Choosing the right platform for your online magazine can be quite difficult. At some point you have to make a decision whether you are going to use an App or the web for distributing your content. We’ve made it a little easier for you by setting out the pros and cons for both.

First of all, let me explain the difference in how both platforms work. Apps are built to operate natively, which means they are specifically built for each device you are working with. The advantage of an App is that your platform is directly available on your phone or tablet. The disadvantage is that every operating system (Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, etc.) requires a newly built App. Apps for smartphones usually don't work well on a tablet (if at all), even when the operating system is the same.

For a web application or platform it’s important that it’s responsive. This means that it is scalable for different type of screens and devices. Responsive design scales your platform to any screen size and reframes the functions, buttons, images and other features to work optimally on the device you are using. The big advantage of responsive design is that the same content works on every device. A potential disadvantage is that you won’t have an actual App on your device, but this may simply be a matter of preference.

Internet dependency
There aren’t many places left around the world where you won’t find a working Wi-Fi or 3G/4G internet connection. Still, you might want to use your platform even if there is no internet connection available. In this case you should opt for an App. In many cases, however, an App may still require a connection. A fully local App will only be a viable option if you don’t use any interactive functions or connections. In any other case it doesn't matter if you go for an App or web platform.

Notifications vs. alerts
For responsive platforms (and for Apps, too) you can use alerts such as email, SMS text messaging or social media. The advantage of e-mail alerts is that you work with hyperlinks, which direct participants directly to specific content.

One of the big pros of an App is the notification feature. If you want to activate your participants and motivate them directly to learn, notifications can be quite useful. 

Notifications

Content management
For content management, we definitely advise opting for responsive design. It’s easy to edit, add or delete content, and you can publish your changes right away. In the case of Apps, all the (native) content can be changed as well, but this requires programming skills and immediate publishing is not possible. After finishing your revision, you need to distribute a new version of your App through the App stores. If you have Apps for multiple devices/platforms, then all the Apps will need to be changed and redistributed through the App stores. One option is to use web-based text in your App.

Integrating other features
Integrating existing features like video is easy in responsive design. Most of those features can be embedded with a piece of simple code (i-framing). App-based platforms require more complex programming procedures if you wish to add features.

Development costs
You probably saw it coming, but responsive design is much more cost-effective compared to developing native Apps, which take a lot of time to build. The more participants/devices/platforms you want to service, the more Apps you need. If you want your App to be available on iOS, both iPhone and iPad, Android smartphone and tablets and Windows mobile, smartphone and tablets, you’ll need six different Apps. Responsive design is available on any device and much easier to develop. Most web developers can work in HTML5 (internet code). By comparison, there are far fewer native App developers working in the field.

Would you like to talk about the possibilities? Get in touch with me by phone or email: +31 (0)20 303 2822 or daan@instantmagazine.com.

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